James Harden living 'a dream' in midst of magical season with Rockets

USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick previews a monster showdown between early MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

HOUSTON — The shrug said it all.

James Harden, the NBA’s Black Beard from the Houston Rockets who goes against Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in a showdown of leading MVP candidates on Thursday, is back in his hoops office again after a quick New Year’s Eve getaway in Las Vegas.

The shrug is his way of saying this is his norm, his “I live a dream life,” with Sin City shout-outs from Drake in the middle of a nightclub concert just hours after he became the first player in league history to score at least 50 points to go with 15 assists and 15 rebounds in a game.

“My brother scored 53, with 16 (rebounds) and 17 (assists at home against the Knicks) — that’s no coincidence,” Drake said amid the packed crowd. “It’s just that type of night.”

For Harden and the 27-9 Rockets, who went from the conference finals two Mays ago to a frustrating first-round playoff fall to their…

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